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The Great Islamophobic Crusade
Inside the Bizarre Cabal of Secretive Donors, Demagogic Bloggers, Pseudo-Scholars, European Neo-Fascists, Violent Israeli Settlers, and Republican Presidential Hopefuls Behind the Crusade
By Max Blumenthal
by Sikivu Hutchinson
from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)
Sanders caucuses with the Democrats, meaning, for all intents and purposes, he is a Democrat. This is not insignificant.
SANDERS: Brian, believe me, I wish I had the answer to your question. Let me just suggest this. I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president; who believe that, with regard to Social Security and a number of other issues, he said one thing as a candidate and is doing something very much else as a president; who cannot believe how weak he has been, for whatever reason, in negotiating with Republicans and there’s deep disappointment. So my suggestion is, I think one of the reasons the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting what is a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama is doing. [...] So I would say to Ryan [sic] discouragement is not an option. I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.
A reader in the comments suggests it’s time for Senator Sanders to put his money where his mouth is.
Jonathan Cohn summarizes what seems to have been in the deal that Boehner walked away from; it’s horrifying. Above all, the proposed rise in the age of Medicare eligibility was a real betrayal of both Democratic principles and good government.
Let’s recall how the health care debate went. Progressive reformers, myself included, would very much have preferred a simple single-payer system — Medicare for all. And there’s a reason: Medicare has lower costs than private insurance, and it’s also a much better vehicle for cost control. Also, the simplicity — if you’re a citizen, you’re covered — makes it much less likely that people will fall through the cracks.
Most of us were willing, however, to accept the Rube Goldberg scheme actually passed — in which community rating, a mandate, and subsidies are combined to more or less simulate the effects of single-payer — as much better than nothing. If political reality dictated that health care be directed through private insurance companies, even though this made no sense in policy terms, well, that was a price we were willing to pay.
But it’s quite something else to take people who are currently being covered by a rational single-payer system, and force them back into the inefficient, parasitic world of private insurance. That’s terrible. And it’s also politically stupid: if you think for a minute that Republicans wouldn’t turn right around and run ads about how Obama is taking away your Medicare, you’ve been living under a rock.
Oh, and of course, Republicans were also trying to undermine health reform; so seniors would find themselves thrown off Medicare but, in many cases, unable to get private insurance either.
Alienating seniors sounds like a daring strategy for 2012 when you’re already angering the base of the party. Brilliant.
According to the poll, the president’s 45 percent approval rating is down three points from June. Fifty-four percent of people questioned disapprove of how Obama’s handling his duties, up six points from last month. His 54 percent disapproval rating ties the all-time high in CNN polling that the president initially reached just before last year’s midterm elections.
“But drill down into that number and you’ll see signs of a stirring discontent on the left,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Thirty-eight percent say they disapprove because President Obama has been too liberal, but 13 percent say they disapprove of Obama because he has not been liberal enough – nearly double what it was in May, when the question was last asked, and the first time that number has hit double digits in Obama’s presidency.”
Looking at that figure another way, roughly one in four Americans who disapprove of the president say they feel that way because he’s not been liberal enough.
The main difference, as both sides acknowledge, was over the size of the new revenue. They’d basically settled the basic principles of how to get the money: By closing loopholes, broadening the base, and lowering rates overall. Boehner had offered $800 billion, or roughly the equivalent of letting the upper income tax cuts expire. Obama had counter-offered $1.2 trillion. But even the $1.2 trillion Obama was seeking – and remember, this was a proposal over which the White House says it expected to keep negotiating – was still far less than the revenue either the Bowles-Simpson chairmen or the Senate’s Gang of Six, two bipartisan groups, had recommended.
Or, to put it more simply, both proposals were far more tilted towards the Republican position, of seeking to balance the budget primarily if not wholly through spending cuts. When this debate started, liberals like me were advocating a balance of spending reductions to new revenue of roughly one-to-one, which is what the Bipartisan Policy Center’s report by Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin had recommended. But the president had been offering, right up through the end of these negotiations, plans that had ratios of roughly three-to-one or maybe worse.
The redoubtable Elizabeth Drew has a forthcoming article in the New York Review of Books — not yet online — that confirms all our worst fears. She tells us that past concessions have
established in both Democrats’ and Republicans’ minds the thought that Obama was a weak negotiator—a “pushover.” He was more widely seen among Democrats and other close observers as having a strategy of starting near where he thinks the Republicans are—at the fifty-yard line—and then moving closer to their position.
Even more alarming, however, is her window on what the White House is thinking:
It all goes back to the “shellacking” Obama took in the 2010 elections. The President’s political advisers studied the numbers and concluded that the voters wanted the government to spend less. This was an arguable interpretation. Nevertheless, the political advisers believed that elections are decided by middle-of-the-road independent voters, and this group became the target for determining the policies of the next two years.
OK, I’ve never won a tough election. But neither has Obama! The 2008 race was looking close until Sarah Palin and Lehman came along. And as far as I can tell, this assessment both of what 2010 was about and what matters for 2012 is just ludicrous.
As I recall, two things happened last year: voters were angry about the weak economy, and older voters believed that Obama was going to take away their Medicare and send them to the death panels. And so the way to win those voters back is to cut Medicare and weaken the economy?
A further point: even if Obama really does cut spending, will anyone notice? Even people who are supposedly well informed believe that there was a vast expansion of government under Obama, when in fact there wasn’t. So we’re supposed to believe that independent voters will actually be able to cut through the fog — the deliberate fog of Fox, the he-said-she-said of most other media organizations — and give him credit for spending cuts? Remember, whatever he does Republicans will claim that the government is getting bigger — and news organization will report only that “Democrats say” that this isn’t true.
What a disaster.
from Max Blumenthal by Max
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store visits the Utoya Labor Youth camp a day before Breivik’s killing spree. He earned loud cheers with an unapologetic call for Palestinian rights.
When I wrote my analysis last December on the “Axis of Islamophobia,” laying out a new international political network of right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, Tea Party activists and racist British soccer hooligans, I did not foresee a terrorist like Anders Behring Breivik emerging from the movement’s ranks. At the same time, I am not surprised that he did. The rhetoric of the characters who inspired Breivik, from Pam Geller to Robert Spencer to Daniel Pipes, was so eliminationist in its nature that it was perhaps only a matter of time before someone put words into action.
As horrific as Breivik’s actions were, he can not be dismissed as a “madman.” His writings contain the same themes and language as more prominent right-wing Islamophobes (or those who style themselves as “counter-Jihadists”) and many conservatives in general. What’s more, Breivik was articulate and coherent enough to offer a clear snapshot of his ideological motives. Ali Abunimah and Alex Kane have posted excellent summaries of Breivik’s writings here and here and a full English translation is here.
Breivik reportedly produced this video manifesto
From a tactical perspective, Breivik was not a “lone wolf” terrorist. Instead, Breivik appeared to operate under a leaderless resistance model much like the Christian anti-abortion terrorists Scott Roeder and Eric Rudolph. Waagner and Rudolph organized around the Army of God, a nebulous group that was known only by its website and the pamphlets its members passed around in truck stops and private meetings. If they received material or tactical support, it occurred spontaneously. For the most part, they found encouragement from like-minded people and organizations like Operation Rescue, but rarely accepted direct assistance. Breivik, who emergedfrom the anti-immigrant Norwegian Progress Party (which built links with America’s Tea Party) and drifted into the English/Norwegian Defense League sphere of extremism, but who appeared to act without formal organizational support, reflects the same leaderless resistance style as America’s anti-abortion terrorists.
While in many ways Breivik shares core similarities with other right-wing anti-government terrorists, he is the product of a movement that is relatively new, increasingly dangerous, and poorly understood. I described the movement in detail in my “Axis of Islamophobia” piece, noting its simultaneous projection of anti-Semitic themes on Muslim immigrants and the appeal of Israel as a Fort Apache on the front lines of the war on terror, holding the line against the Eastern barbarian hordes. Breivik’s writings embody this seemingly novel fusion, particularly in his obsession with “Cultural Marxism,” an increasingly popular far-right concept that positions the (mostly Jewish) Frankfurt School as the originators of multiculturalism, combined with his call to “influence other cultural conservatives to come to our…pro-Israel line.”
Breivik and other members of Europe’s new extreme right are fixated on the fear of the “demographic Jihad,” or being out-populated by overly fertile Muslim immigrants. They see themselves as Crusader warriors fighting a racial/religious holy war to preserve Western Civilization. Thus they turn for inspiration to Israel, the only ethnocracy in the world, a country that substantially bases its policies towards the Palestinians on what its leaders call “demographic considerations.” This is why Israeli flags invariably fly above black-masked English Defense League mobs, and why Geert Wilders, the most prominent Islamophobic politician in the world, routinely travels to Israel to demand the forced transfer of Palestinians.
Judging from Breivik’s writings, his hysterical hatred of the Labor Party’s immigration policies and tolerance of Muslim immigrants likely led him target the government-operated summer camp at Utoya. For years, the far-right has singled Norway out as a special hotbed of pro-Islam, pro-Palestinian sentiment, thanks largely to its ruling Labor Party. In 2010, for instance, the English Defense League called Norway a future site of “Islamohell,” “where unadulterated political correctness has ruled the roost, with sharp talons, for decades.” Yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal editorial page rushed to blame Muslim terrorists for what turned out to be Breivik’s killing spree, it slammed the Norwegian government for pulling troops from Afghanistan and demanding that Israel end its siege of Gaza. For his part, Breivik branded the Labor Party as “traitors.”
There is no clear evidence that Breivik’s support for the Israeli right played any part in his killing spree. Nor does he appear to have any connection with the Israeli government. However, it is worth noting that in November 2010, the Israeli government joined the right-wing pile on, accusing the Norwegian government of “anti-Israel incitement” for funding a trip for students to New York to see the “Gaza Monologues” play. Then, the day before Breivik’s terror attack, which he planned long in advance, Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stor visited the Labor Youth camp at Utoya. There, he was met with demands to support the global BDS movement and to support the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood bid. “The Palestinians must have their own state, the occupation must end, the wall must be demolished and it must happen now,” the Foreign Minister declared, earning cheers from the audience.
Breivik’s writings offer much more than a window into the motives that led him to commit terror. They can also be read as an embodiment of the mentality of a new and internationalized far-right movement that not only mobilizes hatred against Muslims, but is also able to produce figures who will kill innocent non-Muslims to save the Western way of life.
The Great Islamophobic Crusade
Inside the Bizarre Cabal of Secretive Donors, Demagogic Bloggers, Pseudo-Scholars, European Neo-Fascists, Violent Israeli Settlers, and Republican Presidential Hopefuls Behind the Crusade
By Max Blumenthal
Nine years after 9/11, hysteria about Muslims in American life has gripped the country. With it has gone an outburst of arson attacks on mosques, campaigns to stop their construction, and the branding of the Muslim-American community, overwhelmingly moderate, as a hotbed of potential terrorist recruits. The frenzy has raged from rural Tennessee to New York City, while in Oklahoma, voters even overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure banning the implementation of Sharia law in American courts (not that such a prospect existed). This campaign of Islamophobia wounded President Obama politically, as one out of five Americans have bought into a sustained chorus of false rumors about his secret Muslim faith. And it may have tainted views of Muslims in general; an August 2010 Pew Research Center poll revealed that, among Americans, the favorability rating of Muslims had dropped by 11 points since 2005.
Erupting so many years after the September 11th trauma, this spasm of anti-Muslim bigotry might seem oddly timed and unexpectedly spontaneous. But think again: it’s the fruit of an organized, long-term campaign by a tight confederation of right-wing activists and operatives who first focused on Islamophobia soon after the September 11th attacks, but only attained critical mass during the Obama era. It was then that embittered conservative forces, voted out of power in 2008, sought with remarkable success to leverage cultural resentment into political and partisan gain.
This network is obsessively fixated on the supposed spread of Muslim influence in America. Its apparatus spans continents, extending from Tea Party activists here to the European far right. It brings together in common cause right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, and racist British soccer hooligans. It reflects an aggressively pro-Israel sensibility, with its key figures venerating the Jewish state as a Middle Eastern Fort Apache on the front lines of the Global War on Terror and urging the U.S. and various European powers to emulate its heavy-handed methods.
Little of recent American Islamophobia (with a strong emphasis on the “phobia”) is sheer happenstance. Years before Tea Party shock troops massed for angry protests outside the proposed site of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, representatives of the Israel lobby and the Jewish-American establishment launched a campaign against pro-Palestinian campus activism that would prove a seedbed for everything to come. That campaign quickly — and perhaps predictably — morphed into a series of crusades against mosques and Islamic schools which, in turn, attracted an assortment of shady but exceptionally energetic militants into the network’s ranks.
Besides providing the initial energy for the Islamophobic crusade, conservative elements from within the pro-Israel lobby bankrolled the network’s apparatus, enabling it to influence the national debate. One philanthropist in particular has provided the beneficence to propel the campaign ahead. He is a little-known Los Angeles-area software security entrepreneur named Aubrey Chernick, who operates out of a security consulting firm blandly named the National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination. A former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has served as a think tank for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a frontline lobbying group for Israel, Chernick is said to be worth $750 million.
Chernick’s fortune is puny compared to that of the billionaire Koch Brothers, extraction industry titans who fund Tea Party-related groups like Americans for Prosperity, and it is dwarfed by the financial empire of Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media baron who is one of the largest private donors to the Democratic party and recently matched $9 million raised for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces in a single night. However, by injecting his money into a small but influential constellation of groups and individuals with a narrow agenda, Chernick has had a considerable impact.
Through the Fairbrook Foundation, a private entity he and his wife Joyce control, Chernick has provided funding to groups ranging from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and CAMERA, a right-wing, pro-Israel, media-watchdog outfit, to violent Israeli settlers living on Palestinian lands and figures like the pseudo-academic author Robert Spencer, who is largely responsible for popularizing conspiracy theories about the coming conquest of the West by Muslim fanatics seeking to establish a worldwide caliphate. Together, these groups spread hysteria about Muslims into Middle American communities where immigrants from the Middle East have recently settled, and they watched with glee as likely Republican presidential frontrunners from Mike Huckabee to Sarah Palin promoted their cause and parroted their tropes. Perhaps the only thing more surprising than the increasingly widespread appeal of Islamophobia is that, just a few years ago, the phenomenon was confined to a few college campuses and an inner city neighborhood, and that it seemed like a fleeting fad that would soon pass from the American political landscape.
Birth of a Network
The Islamophobic crusade was launched in earnest at the peak of George W. Bush’s prestige when the neoconservatives and their allies were riding high. In 2003, three years after the collapse of President Bill Clinton’s attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue and in the immediate wake of the invasion of Iraq, a network of Jewish groups, ranging from ADL and the American Jewish Committee to AIPAC, gathered to address what they saw as a sudden rise in pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses nationwide. That meeting gave birth to the David Project, a campus advocacy group led by Charles Jacobs, who had co-founded CAMERA, one of the many outfits bankrolled by Chernick. With the help of public relations professionals, Jacobs conceived a plan to “take back the campus by influencing public opinion through lectures, the Internet, and coalitions,” as a memo produced at the time by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company stated.
In 2004, after conferring with Martin Kramer, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the pro-Israel think tank where Chernick had served as a trustee, Jacobs produced a documentary film that he calledColumbia Unbecoming. It was filled with claims from Jewish students at Columbia University claiming they had endured intimidation and insults from Arab professors. The film portrayed that New York City school’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures as a hothouse of anti-Semitism.
In their complaints, the students focused on one figure in particular: Joseph Massad, a Palestinian professor of Middle East studies. He was known for his passionate advocacy of the formation of a binational state between Israel and Palestine, as well as for his strident criticism of what he termed “the racist character of Israel.” The film identified him as “one of the most dangerous intellectuals on campus,” while he was featured as a crucial villain in The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, a book by the (Chernick-funded) neoconservative activist David Horowitz. As Massad was seeking tenure at the time, he was especially vulnerable to this sort of wholesale assault.
When the controversy over Massad’s views intensified, Congressman Anthony Weiner, a liberal New York Democrat who once described himselfas a representative of “the ZOA [Zionist Organization of America] wing of the Democratic Party,” demanded that Columbia President Lee Bollinger, a renowned First Amendment scholar, fire the professor. Bollinger responded by issuing uncharacteristically defensive statements about the “limited” nature of academic freedom.
In the end, however, none of the charges stuck. Indeed, the testimonies in the David Project film were eventually either discredited or never corroborated. In 2009, Massad earned tenure after winning Columbia’s prestigious Lionel Trilling Award for excellence in scholarship.
Having demonstrated its ability to intimidate faculty members and even powerful university administrators, however, Kramer claimed a moral victory in the name of his project, boasting to the press that “this is a turning point.” While the David Project subsequently fostered chapters on campuses nationwide, its director set out on a different path — initially, into the streets of Boston in 2004 to oppose the construction of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
For nearly 15 years, the Islamic Society of Boston had sought to build the center in the heart of Roxbury, the city’s largest black neighborhood, to serve its sizable Muslim population. With endorsements from Mayor Thomas Menino and leading Massachusetts lawmakers, the mosque’s construction seemed like a fait accompli – until, that is, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Boston Herald and his local Fox News affiliate snapped into action. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby also chimed in with a series of reports claiming the center’s plans were evidence of a Saudi Arabian plot to bolster the influence of radical Islam in the United States, and possibly even to train underground terror cells.
It was at this point that the David Project entered the fray, convening elements of the local pro-Israel community in the Boston area to seek strategies to torpedo the project. According to emails obtained by the Islamic Society’s lawyers in a lawsuit against the David Project, the organizers settled on a campaign of years of nuisance lawsuits, along with accusations that the center had received foreign funding from “the Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia or… the Moslem Brotherhood.”
In response, a grassroots coalition of liberal Jews initiated inter-faith efforts aimed at ending a controversy that had essentially been manufactured out of thin air and was corroding relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities in the city. Jacobs would not, however, relent. “We are more concerned now than we have ever been about a Saudi influence of local mosques,” he announced at a suburban Boston synagogue in 2007.
After paying out millions of dollars in legal bills and enduring countless smears, the Islamic Society of Boston completed the construction of its community center in 2008. Meanwhile, not surprisingly, nothing came of the David Project’s dark warnings. As Boston-area National Public Radio reporter Philip Martin reflected in September 2010, “The horror stories that preceded [the center’s] development seem shrill and histrionic in retrospect.”
The Network Expands
This second failed campaign was, in the end, more about movement building than success, no less national security. The local crusade established an effective blueprint for generating hysteria against the establishment of Islamic centers and mosques across the country, while galvanizing a cast of characters who would form an anti-Muslim network which would gain attention and success in the years to come.
In 2007, these figures coalesced into a proto-movement that launched a new crusade, this time targeting the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a secular Arabic-English elementary school in Brooklyn, New York. Calling their ad hoc pressure group, Stop the Madrassah – madrassah being simply the Arab word for “school” — the coalition’s activists included an array of previously unknown zealots who made no attempt to disguise their extreme views when it came to Islam as a religion, as well as Muslims in America. Their stated goal was to challenge the school’s establishment on the basis of its violation of the church-state separation in the U.S. Constitution. The true aim of the coalition, however, was transparent: to pressure the city’s leadership to adopt an antagonistic posture towards the local Muslim community.
The activists zeroed in on the school’s principal, Debbie Almontaser, a veteran educator of Yemeni descent, and baselessly branded her “a jihadist” as well as a 9/11 denier. They also accused her of — as Pamela Geller, a far-right blogger just then gaining prominence put it, “whitewash[ing] the genocide against the Jews.” Daniel Pipes, a neoconservative academic previously active in the campaigns against Joseph Massad and the Boston Islamic center (and whose pro-Likud think tank, Middle East Forum, has received $150,000 from Chernick) claimed the school should not go ahead because “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage.” As the campaign reached a fever pitch, Almontaser reported that members of the coalition were actually stalking her wherever she went.
Given what Columbia Journalism School professor and former New York Times reporter Samuel Freedman called “her clear, public record of interfaith activism and outreach,” including work with the New York Police Department and the Anti-Defamation League after the September 11th attacks, the assault on Almontaser seemed little short of bizarre — until her assailants discovered a photograph of a T-shirt produced by AWAAM, a local Arab feminist organization, that read “Intifada NYC.” As it turned out, AWAAM sometimes shared office space with a Yemeni-American association on which Almontaser served as a board member. Though the connection seemed like a stretch, it promoted the line of attack the Stop the Madrassah coalition had been seeking.
Having found a way to wedge the emotional issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict into a previously New York-centered campaign, the school’s opponents next gained a platform at the Murdoch-owned New York Post, where reporters Chuck Bennett and Jana Winter claimed her T-shirt was “apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple.” While Almontaser attempted to explain to the Post’s reporters that she rejected terrorism, the Anti-Defamation League chimed in on cue. ADL spokesman Oren Segal told the Post: “The T-shirt is a reflection of a movement that increasingly lauds violence against Israelis instead of rejecting it. That is disturbing.”
Before any Qassam rockets could be launched from Almontaser’s school, her former ally New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg caved to the growing pressure and threatened to shut down the school, prompting her to resign. A Jewish principal who spoke no Arabic replaced Almontaser, who later filed a lawsuit against the city for breaching her free speech rights. In 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that New York’s Department of Education had “succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel” by firing Almontaser and urged it pay her $300,000 in damages. The commission also concluded that the Post had quoted her misleadingly.
Though it failed to stop the establishment of the Khalil Gibran Academy, the burgeoning anti-Muslim movement succeeded in forcing city leaders to bend to its will, and having learned just how to do that, then moved on in search of more high-profile targets. As the New York Times reported at the time, “The fight against the school… was only an early skirmish in a broader, national struggle.”
“It’s a battle that has really just begun,” Pipes told the Times.
From Scam to Publicity Coup
Pipes couldn’t have been more on the mark. In late 2009, the Islamophobes sprang into action again when the Cordoba Initiative, a non-profit Muslim group headed by Feisal Abdul Rauf, an exceedingly moderate Sufi Muslim imam who regularly traveled abroad representing the United States at the behest of the State Department, announced that it was going to build a community center in downtown New York City. With the help of investors, Rauf’s Cordoba Initiative purchased space two blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan. The space was to contain a prayer area as part of a large community center that would be open to everyone in the neighborhood.
None of these facts mattered to Pamela Geller. Thanks to constant prodding at her blog, Atlas Shrugged, Geller made Cordoba’s construction plans a national issue, provoking fervent calls from conservatives to protect the “hallowed ground” of 9/11 from creeping Sharia. (That the “mosque” would have been out of sight of Ground Zero and that the neighborhood was, in fact, filled with everything from strip clubs to fast-food joints didn’t matter.) Geller’s activism against Cordoba House earned the 52-year-old full-time blogger the attention she apparently craved, including a long profile in theNew York Times and frequent cable news spots, especially, of course, on Fox News.
Mainstream reporters tended to focus on Geller’s bizarre stunts. She posted a video of herself splashing around in a string bikini on a Fort Lauderdale beach, for instance, while ranting about “left-tards” and “Nazi Hezbollah.” Her call for boycotting Campbell’s Soup because the company offered halal– approved under Islamic law (as kosher food is under Jewish law) — versions of its products got her much attention, as did her promotion of a screed claiming that President Barack Obama was the illegitimate lovechild of Malcolm X.
Geller had never earned a living as a journalist. She supported herself with millions of dollars in a divorce settlement and life insurance money from her ex-husband. He died in 2008, a year after being indicted for an alleged $1.3 million scam he was accused of running out of a car dealership he co-owned with Geller. Independently wealthy and with time on her hands, Geller proved able indeed when it came to exploiting her strange media stardom to incite the already organized political network of Islamophobes to intensify their crusade.
She also benefited from close alliances with leading Islamophobes from Europe. Among Geller’s allies was Andrew Gravers, a Danish activist who formed the group Stop the Islamicization of Europe, and gave it the unusually blunt motto: “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” Gravers’ group inspired Geller’s own U.S.-based outfit, Stop the Islamicization of America, which she formed with her friend Robert Spencer, a pseudo-scholar whose bestselling books, includingThe Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, prompted former advisor to President Richard Nixon and Muslim activist Robert Crane to call him, “the principal leader… in the new academic field of Muslim bashing.” (According to the website Politico, almost $1 million in donations from Chernick has been steered to Spencer’s Jihad Watch group through David Horowitz’s Freedom Center.)
Perfect sources for Republican political figures in search of the next hot-button cause, their rhetoric found its way into the talking points of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin as they propelled the crusade against Cordoba House into the national spotlight. Gingrich soon compared the community center to a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, while Palin called it “a stab in the heart” of “the Heartland.” Meanwhile, Tea Party candidates like Republican Ilario Pantano, an Iraq war veteran who killedtwo unarmed Iraqi civilians, shooting them 60 times — he even stopped to reload — made their opposition to Cordoba House the centerpiece of midterm congressional campaigns conducted hundreds of miles from Ground Zero.
Geller’s campaign against “the mosque at Ground Zero” gained an unexpected assist and a veneer of legitimacy from established Jewish leaders like Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman. “Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” heremarked to the New York Times. Comparing the bereaved family members of 9-11 victims to Holocaust survivors, Foxman insisted, “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”
Soon enough, David Harris, director of the (Chernick-funded) American Jewish Committee, was demanding that Cordoba’s leaders be compelled to reveal their “true attitudes” about Palestinian militant groups before construction on the center was initiated. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles, another major Jewish group, insisted it would be “insensitive” for Cordoba to build near “a cemetery,” though his organization had recently been granted permission from the municipality of Jerusalem to build a “museum of tolerance” to be called The Center for Human Dignity directly on top of the Mamilla Cemetery, a Muslim graveyard that contained thousands of gravesites dating back 1,200 years.
Inspiration from Israel
It was evident from the involvement of figures like Gravers that the Islamophobic network in the United States represented a trans-Atlantic expansion of simmering resentment in Europe. There, the far-right was storming to victories in parliamentary elections across the continent in part by appealing to the simmering anti-Muslim sentiments of voters in rural and working-class communities. The extent of the collaboration between European and American Islamophobes has only continued to grow with Geller, Spencer, and even Gingrich standing beside Europe’s most prominent anti-Muslim figure, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, at a rally against Cordoba House. In the meantime, Geller was issuing statements of supportfor the English Defense League, a band of unreconstructed neo-Nazis and former members of the whites-only British National Party who intimidate Muslims in the streets of cities like Birmingham and London.
In addition, the trans-Atlantic Islamophobic crusade has stretched into Israel, a country that has come to symbolize the network’s fight against the Muslim menace. As Geller told the New York Times’ Alan Feuer, Israel is “a very good guide because, like I said, in the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man.”
EDL members regularly wave Israeli flags at their rallies, while Wilders claims to have formed his views about Muslims during the time he worked on an Israeli cooperative farm in the 1980s. He has, he says, visited the country more than 40 times since to meet with rightist political allies like Aryeh Eldad, a member of the Israeli Knesset and leader of the far right Hatikvah faction of the National Union Party. He has called for forcibly “transferring” the Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied West Bank to Jordan and Egypt. On December 5th, for example, Wilders traveled to Israel for a “friendly” meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, then declared at a press conference that Israel should annex the West Bank and set up a Palestinian state in Jordan.
In the apocalyptic clash of civilizations the global anti-Muslim network has sought to incite, tiny armed Jewish settlements like Yitzar, located on the hills above the occupied Palestinian city of Nablus, represent front-line fortresses. Inside Yitzar’s state-funded yeshiva, a rabbi named Yitzhak Shapira has instructed students in what rules must be applied when considering killing non-Jews. Shapira summarized his opinions in a widely publicized book,Torat HaMelech, or The King’s Torah. Claiming that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature,” Shapira cited rabbinical texts to declare that gentiles could be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “There is justification,” the rabbi proclaimed, “for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
In 2006, the rabbi was briefly held by Israeli police for urging his supporters to murder all Palestinians over the age of 13. Two years later, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he signed a rabbinical letter in support of Israeli Jews who had brutally assaulted two Arab youths on the country’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. That same year, Shapira was arrested as a suspect in helping orchestrate a rocket attack against a Palestinian village near Nablus.
Though he was not charged, his name came up again in connection with another act of terror when, in January 2010, the Israeli police raided his settlement seeking vandals who had set fire to a nearby mosque. One of Shapira’s followers, an American immigrant, Jack Teitel, has confessed to murdering two innocent Palestinians and attempting to the kill the liberal Israeli historian Ze’ev Sternhell with a mail bomb.
What does all this have to do with Islamophobic campaigns in the United States? A great deal, actually. Through New York-based tax-exempt non-profits like the Central Fund of Israel and Ateret Cohenim, for instance, the omnipresent Aubrey Chernick has sent tens of thousands of dollars to support the Yitzar settlement, as well as to the messianic settlers dedicated to “Judaizing” East Jerusalem. The settlement movement’s leading online news magazine, Arutz Sheva, has featured Geller as a columnist. A friend of Geller’s, Beth Gilinsky, a right-wing activist with a group called the Coalition to Honor Ground Zero and the founder of the Jewish Action Alliance (apparently run out of a Manhattan real estate office), organized a large rally in New York City in April 2010 to protest the Obama administration’s call for a settlement freeze.
Among Chernick’s major funding recipients is a supposedly “apolitical” group called Aish Hatorah that claims to educate Jews about their heritage. Based in New York and active in the fever swamps of northern West Bank settlements near Yitzar, Aish Hatorah shares an address and staff with a shadowy foreign non-profit called the Clarion Fund. During the 2008 U.S. election campaign, the Clarion Fund distributed 28 million DVDs of a propaganda film called Obsession as newspaper inserts to residents of swing states around the country. The film featured a who’s who of anti-Muslim activists, including Walid Shoebat, a self-proclaimed “former PLO terrorist.” Among Shoebat’s more striking statements: “A secular dogma like Nazism is less dangerous than is Islamofascism today.” At a Christian gathering in 2007, this “former Islamic terrorist” told the crowd that Islam was a “satanic cult” and that he had been born again as an evangelical Christian. In 2008, however, the Jerusalem Post, a right-leaning newspaper, exposed him as a fraud, whose claims to terrorism were fictional.
Islamophobic groups registered only a minimal impact during the 2008 election campaign. Two years later, however, after the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in midterm elections, the network appears to have reached critical mass. Of course, the deciding factor in the election was the economy, and in two years, Americans will likely vote their pocketbooks again. But that the construction of a single Islamic community center or the imaginary threat of Sharia law were issues at all reflected the influence of a small band of locally oriented activists, and suggested that when a certain presidential candidate who has already been demonized as a crypto-Muslim runs for reelection, the country’s most vocal Islamophobes could once again find a national platform amid the frenzied atmosphere of the campaign.
By now, the Islamophobic crusade has gone beyond the right-wing pro-Israel activists, cyber-bigots, and ambitious hucksters who conceived it. It now belongs to leading Republican presidential candidates, top-rated cable news hosts, and crowds of Tea Party activists. As the fervor spreads, the crusaders are basking in the glory of what they accomplished. “I didn’t choose this moment,” Geller mused to the New York Times, “this moment chose me.”
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Beast, the Nation, the Huffington Post, the Independent Film Channel, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English, and other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute and author of the bestselling bookRepublican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party(Nation Books).
Copyright 2010 Max Blumenthal
© 2011 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175334/
from Jews sans frontieres by Levi9909
Antony Lerman has a good piece on the killings in Norway two days ago.
The herd mentality of pundits and commentators was on display as they fell over each other to immediately blame the Norway killings on Muslim extremists. It wasn’t long before it became clear that the culprit, Anders Behring Breivik, was a blond Norwegian far right sympathiser, an Islamophobe, a Christian fundamentalist and an admirer of the English Defence League and of Geert Wilders.Muslim extremists have indeed been responsible for atrocities in Europe, but this fact has merged with a more generalised anti-Muslim prejudice to produce a fixation with Muslims as the source of numerous negative trends afflicting Europe. We’re constantly being warned about the dangers of ‘Islamo-fascism’, a seriously flawed concept, while the European fascism that we know and love is being shortsightedly neglected.You only need to read this article by Gary Younge, dating from 2008, to realise that the heirs of Hitler and Mussolini are once again flexing their muscles as they benefit from alarm over immigration, the failures and iniquities of capitalism, the greed of bankers and high unemployment. Or follow the work of Cas Mudde who warns that the new right as represented by Wilders and others are still closely attached to the ideas of the traditional far right.
And check out who has been cheering for Wilders lately.
Bigoted American Family Values, Invisible Lives
by Sikivu Hutchinson
“Mainstream media is still in the Ozzie and Harriet era when it comes to the realities of families of color.” Deeply layered stereotypes project white supremacist values onto gay and lesbian households, marginalizing diverse families of color, especially those that are poor. “Loving gay partners of color with children are virtually nonexistent” in American media.
by Sikivu Hutchinson
“Extended family provided a bulwark against institutional racism and segregation.”
A recent Los Angeles Times story  about the U.S. Census’ report on the changing demographics of California families opens with an idyllic portrait of a white lesbian-headed family whose daughter is asked “on a leafy drive…at a newly renovated home with cathedral ceilings and a backyard pool” why she has three mommies. According to the new data, families are increasingly becoming less nuclear, headed up by more single parents, childless couples and LGBT couples with children. Yet family diversity is only a revelation in the mainstream media, which continue to promote the model of nuclear family-hood, even if it is provisionally embodied by well-heeled white gay partners with photogenic children. Historically, families of color have always been diverse. Extended African American family networks of adult caregivers, gay and straight, related and un-related, have always contributed to childrearing. Extended family provided a bulwark against institutional racism and segregation. Thus, the Times’ snapshot of affluent comfort contrasts with the realities of many LGBT families of color who struggle to stay above the poverty line. Further, the depiction of white childrearing and parenting as the de facto norm contributes to the national narrative that non-traditional families of color can never represent an authentic model of family.
In reality, the numbers of LGBT families of color are increasing, especially in traditionally conservative regions like the South , which has seen a new black “re-migration” due to the massive ripple effect of job losses, foreclosures and gentrification in northern urban black communities. Nonetheless, when textbooks, TV shows, and Hollywood films envision culturally “diverse” LGBT families it is through the lens of privileged white middle class folk who have “benevolently” decided to adopt a child of color or used expensive reproductive technology to have children. Complex families of color that are either headed by single gay or straight parents are marginalized as inherently dysfunctional, welfare-dependent and socially borderline. Loving gay partners of color with children are virtually nonexistent.
“Complex families of color that are either headed by single gay or straight parents are marginalized as inherently dysfunctional, welfare-dependent and socially borderline.”
This media white-out has insidious implications for both straight and gay children of color. If gay children of color don’t see loving adult gay and lesbian caregivers then they will continue to internalize their own dehumanization. If straight children of color don’t see loving representations of LGBT parents and families of color, gayness will still be equated with “white” deviance. This week, the California State Assembly will vote on a bill requiring the contributions of LGBT communities and historical figures be taught in K-12 classrooms. Clearly, the invisibility of LGBT families of color not only reinforces homophobic opposition to LBGT equality within African American communities, but validates the absence of public policy that specifically addresses LGBT youth of color issues.
For example, nationwide, increasing numbers of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning) youth of color are becoming homeless due to overt anti-gay harassment, emotional/physical abuse and lack of acceptance by their families and communities. In my work with LGBTQ homeless youth in Los Angeles, some recount being forced to leave home due to the kind of violent scenarios satirized in comedian Tracy Morgan’s now infamous homophobic rant. Morgan’s diatribe about the prospect of a son coming out as gay enacted a shopworn stereotype about straight male socialization. It is a given that no self-respecting father, particularly a black father, would want his son to be gay. It is a given that masculinity must be rigidly policed by the fraternity of men. Thus, the only “reasonable” response to a young black man coming out would be violence. Morgan’s vitriol illustrated how gender identity and sexuality are intertwined. But it also highlighted the deep connection between normative gender identities, race and family roles. Black heterosexism is reinforced by white supremacy. White supremacy establishes a hierarchy of men in which non-white men are either feminized or hyper-masculinized. The social capital of white men lies in being the universal ideal of humanity; requiring men of color to be the super-macho other. For men of color, violent hard masculinity is the only kind of masculinity that is validated by the dominant culture. As the national propaganda goes, caring, emotionally present black fathers—single or partnered—are an oxymoron. According to this mythology, all black boys take their cue from this deficit model and the hyper-masculine cycle of violence repeats itself in crime and illegitimacy.
“For men of color, violent hard masculinity is the only kind of masculinity that is validated by the dominant culture.”
With African American children comprising nearly 40% of the nation’s foster care and homeless youth populations, culturally responsive feminist approaches to caregiving and family sustainability are crucial. Living in a culture in which they are reminded daily of their non-existence by a white supremacist heterosexist nation that deifies straight white beauty ideals and views affordable housing as a privilege, some LGBT homeless youth of color resort to destructive behaviors like survival sex and drug abuse. Demographic patterns have long shifted to make whites a minority in the U.S. Yet mainstream media is still in the Ozzie and Harriet era when it comes to the realities of families of color, buttressing bankrupt social welfare policies that expose the sham of American family values.
Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars .
from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
The US Border Patrol shot dead a Mexican national who was among three men allegedly attempting to cross the frontier at San Ysidro, Calif. June 21. The dead man, identified as Jose Alfredo Yañez Reyes, 40, was shot after throwing stones at the agents from the southern side of the border, in Tijuana. One of the border agents reportedly sustained injuries but has since been released from hospital. The Border Patrol said the agent fired in self-defense. But the Mexican government condemned the killing, calling it a “disproportionate use of force” and has demanded a thorough investigation. President Felipe Calderón Tweeted that he had protested about the incident to Hillary Clinton at a Guatemala summit they are both attending. The death comes almost exactly a year after a 15-year-old Mexican boy was shot on the border at El Paso, Tex., after allegedly throwing stones at Border Patrol agents. (UPI, InSight Crime, June 23)
LABOR / THE ECONOMY
from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius
I’m not making the statement, but I am asking the question, and I’m asking it seriously. The man making the statement is Thom Hartmann on The Big Picture. Here he is in conversation with Cliff Schecter, discussing that very subject:
Hartmann: “The Republicans have sabotaged this process every step of the way.” Exactly. The question is, are they bluffing to get the best deal, or deliberately driving the car off the cliff in order to win the next election?
And the other question is, who’s driving that Republican car? If you don’t factor in the election, it’s the Tea Party. But if you do factor in the election, and Mitch McConnell’s claim that all he wants to do is destroy Obama’s presidency, it could be both of them, doing the good cop–bad cop thing.
I do agree that this is a “defining moment,” with lots of angles from which to look at it.
If you’d like to read the Alternet piece Cliff Schecter mentioned in the interview, it’s here. Interesting discussion.
from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by firstname.lastname@example.org (Democracy Now!)
Extreme weather from Texas to Somalia may indicate that a new era of climate war is upon us. Just this month, massive floods have shut down two nuclear power facilities in Nebraska. In New Mexico, the nation’s top nuclear weapons lab in Los Alamos is being threatened by an uncontrolled wildfire. Meanwhile, the United Nations warns the Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in 60 years, affecting more than 10 million in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda. We speak with award-winning journalist Christian Parenti who argues in his new book that global warming is leading to social and environmental catastrophe. “The weather associated with climate change, extreme weather such as the drought, punctuated by flooding in East Africa, punctuated by flooding in East Africa, is adding to this.Climate change very often doesn’t just look bad weather, it looks like ethnic violence or religious violence or banditry or civil war,” says Parenti.
from Cliff Mass Weather Blog by Cliff Mass Weather Blog
It often seems that the U.S. east and west coasts are on some kind of weather seesaw. Recently westerners have been complaining that the East Coast is warm and the West is cool, but sometimes it goes the other way. Quite frequently, warm records are found on one coast when cool records are occurring on the other. The coastal weather seesaw some people call it. And now, a new index reveals its intimate details. In this blog you will view the Coastal Contrast Index (CCI), an advanced new diagnostic tool never shown before in public.
The CCI is based on the difference between the temperatures of major cites on both coasts. Specifically, the mean temperatures of eastern cities (TE) minus the mean temperatures of western cities (TW).
For TE we use Boston, New York, Washington DC and Atlanta. For TW we use Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The selection of these particular cities is based on arcane scientific principles that are too complicated to explain in this blog. Yes, the latitudes don’t match exactly, but that is where the people are. And I should note that the data analysis for the CCI was done by data analyst extraordinaire of the UW: Neal Johnson.
Ready to see it? Take a look at this graph (click to enlarge) for January 1 through July 21st.
The blue line shows the daily climatological values based on long-term average temperatures for those dates and cities.
Notice that from January 1 through roughly 10 April, the West Coast is generally WARMER than the East Coast by about 10F. And then in late spring and summer the East Coast becomes warmer by roughly 10F again. The seasonal seesaw…its real. And the reasons are clear: the West Coast has the relatively mild Pacific to its west, which keeps us warm in winter and cool in summer. The East Coast has a large continental area to its west (weather generally comes from the west in the midlatitudes as you know), which is cold in winter and warm in the summer.
But this graph doesn’t stop there! The red line shows the index for THIS YEAR and the information is sobering. And very different than normal.
During the winter, the East Coast was WAY cooler than normal compared to the West Coast . We are talking 20-25F cooler than the West. You remember that–snowstorm after snowstorm, frigid day after frigid day for the forlorn easterners. Some folks even blamed than on global warming.
And then in roughly mid-February an atmospheric switch was flipped and on most days the East Coast was warmer than the West–much warmer than it should be. On many days, particularly this summer, the East was 15-20F warmer than the West. And if we included the last few few days, there would be a spike to 25 or more.
The reason for this anomalous behavior has been discussed in the blog several times: the establishment of a persistent mean trough over the West Coast and a ridge over the central and eastern U.S. during February, a pattern that has just not gone away.
Finally, you will notice several big swings of the index and there is a reason. Although there has been ON AVERAGE a trough over the west and a ridge over the east, on a daily basis sometimes there are brief excursions to the opposite situation, occasions when there is a ridge over the west and a trough over the east. Then the seesaw goes the other way. And westerners love it!
Why is the east and west coasts so frequently out of phase? The reason is that the flow aloft is usually very wave like and the wavelength of the typical wave is frequently just about right to give us the out-of-phase coasts (see graphic).
|The upper level flow pattern is very wave-like and has typical wavelengths.|
This wavelength is set by a number of things, such as the rotation rate of the earth and the typical temperature variations of the planet. Why did we get this anomalous wave pattern this year? La Nina is partially to blame, but there is probably more. Is this a sign of global warming? I don’t anyone can answer this question at this point and keep in mind that while some places are warmer than normal, others are cooler.
One incident says little about long-term climate change, but some in the media are already saying that this incident is “consistent” or “the kind of events we will experience” under global warming. Want to see an egregious example of this–check out the NY Times.
Anyone want to bet against the same thing happening in the US? How long do you really need to think about it before you come up with a story about ridiculous attacks on Democrats? This bullying behavior has to stop.
Lib Dem insiders say NI officials took their lobbying campaign well beyond acceptable limits and even threatened, last autumn, to persecute the party if Vince Cable, the business secretary, did not advance its case.
According to one account from a senior party figure, a cabinet minister was told that, if the government did not do as NI wanted, the Lib Dems would be “done over” by the Murdoch papers, which included the now defunct News of the World as well as the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
The accounts are only now coming to light, say sources, because the minister involved feared the potential for damage to the party, which was already suffering a dramatic slide in popularity after going into coalition with the Tories. They chime with reports from senior figures in the Labour party who say that Murdoch executives issued threats to Ed Miliband’s office after the Labour leader turned on NI when the news broke that murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked into by the News of the World.